After successfully holding the gubernatorial seat in Virginia, as well as flipping the state of New Jersey following the departure of unpopular Republican Chris Christie, Democrats hope to seize more gubernatorial seats in 2018 – a critical objective as many Governors elected this year will play a major role in the process of re-drawing congressional lines following the upcoming Census.
Republicans currently hold 33 gubernatorial seats, its highest total since World War II, while Democrats hold 16. The lone remaining seat, in Alaska, is held by an independent.
While the number of contested Senate races in 2018 are slanted heavily against the Democrats, Republicans will be forced to defend 26 gubernatorial seats in November, while nine Democratic seats are up for re-election this year, as well as the independent Governor of Alaska.
Alaska (Toss-Up, Independent Incumbent Seeking Re-Election)
Independent Governor Bill Walker has announced his intention to run for re-election, yet faces uncertain prospects due to the state’s economic difficulties – difficulties caused in large part by the low cost of oil and the state economy’s dependence on oil exports.
No Democrat has declared their candidacy as of yet; however, former Senator Mark Begich has not ruled out entering the race. There is also the possibility that Walker himself could be endorsed by the Democratic Party.
Numerous Republicans, including several current and former members of the Alaska legislature, are seeking to recapture the seat.
Colorado (Leans Democratic, Democratic Incumbent Term-Limited)
As incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper is term-limited, the Democratic and Republican fields are both wide open – though Democrats are confident they will hold the seat given Colorado’s growing Hispanic population.
Representative Jared Polis is the presumptive Democratic front runner, though he faces a strong challenge from Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne and state Senator Mike Johnston.
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton are vying for the Republican nomination alongside businessman Doug Robinson. Former Representative Tom Tancredo, a favorite of the populist wing of the party, recently withdrew from the race.
It’s worth noting that Stapleton is a relative of the Bush Family, while Robinson is the nephew of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Connecticut (Toss-Up, Democratic Incumbent Retiring)
Dislike of President Trump among some wealthy suburban voters may be all that keeps Democrats from losing the state of Connecticut after unpopular Governor Dan Malloy announced he would not seek re-election.
Both fields feature current mayors and state representatives, though no one running has been elected statewide.
Some polls have shown a generic Republican leading a generic Democrat, though there are indications neither party is completely satisfied with its field of candidates.
Florida (Toss-Up, Republican Incumbent Term-Limited)
With incumbent Governor Rick Scott term-limited and making plans to challenge Senator Bill Nelson, Democrats hope to recapture Florida’s gubernatorial seat for the first time since 1994 – possibly relying on some of the thousands of Puerto Ricans who moved to the state following Hurricane Maria.
State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was the favored Republican candidate until Representative Ron DeSantis entered the race – with President Trump’s support.
The Democratic field features former Representative Gwen Graham as the favorite, facing off against Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine.
Illinois (Toss-Up, Republican Incumbent Seeking Re-Election)
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is by far the most vulnerable Republican running for re-election – provided he survives a primary challenge by state representative Jeanne Ives.
The Democrats primary features a front runner, venture capitalist J.B Pritzker, facing off against state Senator Daniel Bliss and former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chris Kennedy (a member of the Kennedy family).
Maine (Leans Democratic, Incumbent Republican Term-Limited)
The gubernatorial seat in Maine will be the Republican Party’s toughest seat to hold in New England as outgoing Governor Paul LePage is term-limited.
Democrats have a wide-open field, with Attorney General Janet Mills being the presumptive nominee, while Republicans have a trio of state legislators to choose from.
The GOP’s one saving grace could be the potential spoiler campaign of independent State Treasurer Teresea Hayes, a former Democrat.
Michigan (Toss-Up, Republican Incumbent Term-Limited)
Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley are the Republican front runners vying to replace term-limited, and unpopular, Governor Rick Snyder.
Though President Trump narrowly carried the state, Democrats expect the traditionally poor showing by the president’s party in midterm elections to push them over the top – though many high profile Democrats have passed on the race, leaving former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer the presumptive nominee.
Minnesota (Leaning Democratic, Incumbent Democrat Retiring)
Incumbent Governor Mark Dayton is not seeking re-election, leaving both parties without a front runner leading into the primaries – though the Democrats have a stronger field of candidates.
Democratic candidates include Saint Paul mayor Chris Coleman, Representative Tim Walz, and State Auditor Rebecca Otto.
The Republican field lacks a clear front runner, or a candidate with statewide name recognition. Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, has been endorsed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Former Governor Tim Pawlenty has ruled out a campaign for senate, but has yet to rule out a bid for his old seat and just recently resigned from his lobbying position in DC. Were Pawlenty to run, the rating would move to toss-up.
Nevada (Toss-Up, Incumbent Republican Term-Limited)
Incumbent Governor Brian Sandoval is term-limited, leaving Democrats with their best opportunity to capture Nevada’s gubernatorial seat for the first time since 1994.
The Republican front runner is State Attorney General Adam Laxalt, while the Democratic primary will see two Clark County Commissioners square off: Steve Sisolak and the more liberal Chris Giunchigliani.
New Hampshire (Leaning Republican, Incumbent Republican Seeking Re-Election)
Incumbent Governor Chris Sununu is running for re-election in one of only two states, along with Vermont, that elect governors to two-year terms.
Former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand is the only declared Democratic candidate thus far, though many are hoping Colin Van Ostern, who ran against Sununu in 2016, will run again.
New Mexico (Leaning Democratic, Incumbent Republican Term-Limited)
New Mexico is the one Republican-held state most likely to flip Democratic as incumbent Governor Susan Martinez is term-limited.
The primary fields for both parties have narrowed, with Democratic Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham poised to face Republican Representative Steve Pearce.
Ohio (Leaning Republican, Incumbent Republican Term-Limited)
State Attorney General Mike DeWine, along with his running mate Secretary of State John Husted, are the front runners to keep Ohio’s gubernatorial seat in Republican hands as Governor John Kasich is term-limited. DeWine will first have to survive a primary against Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor.
The Democratic field, while large, has begun to coalesce behind former Attorney General Richard Cordray, who most recently headed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Despite his considerable name recognition, Cordray will still face former Representative Dennis Kucinich and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neil.
A contest between Cordray and DeWine would be a rematch of their last campaign for Attorney General- a contest DeWine won.
Pennsylvania (Leans Democratic, Incumbent Democrat Seeking Re-Election)
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has average approval ratings, but it is unclear if a Republican can defeat him, despite the state’s swing for President Trump.
The Republican front runner is state Senator Scott Wagner, who must first face businessman Paul Mango in the primary. House Speaker Mike Turzai withdrew from the race before the state GOP formally endorsed Wagner.
Rhode Island (Leans Democratic, Incumbent Democrat Seeking Re-Election)
Incumbent Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo has dismal approval ratings, yet her formidable campaign war chest will make the race an uphill battle for any Republican.
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and state Representative Patricia Morgan are the GOP front runners.
A wildcard is the candidacy former state Representative Joseph Trillo, a Republican-turned-Independent and strong supporter of President Trump.
Likely/Solid Republican Seats
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has attracted weak opposition this far and has incredibly high approval ratings, as is the case for Vermont Governor Phil Scott.
Though running in a state Trump lost handedly, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is incredibly popular and is leading all three potential challengers by double digits in recent polls.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who took office following the resignation of Governor Robert Bentley, is a safe bet for re-election, as is South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, who succeeded Nikki Haley following her appointment as Ambassador to the United Nations.
Democrats are hoping to capitalize on Senate and gubernatorial vacancies in Tennessee, though Republican Representative Diane Black is still the front runner.
The gubernatorial seat in Georgia is open as incumbent Nathan Deal is term-limited. The Republican nominee – likely current Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp – is still the odds on favorite to win.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is poised to win re-election, as is Texas Governor Greg Abbott, though Democrats are hoping Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez or businessman Andrew White will draw enough voters to prevent down ballot candidates from suffering.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a likely bet to win re-election, though the extent of the so-called “blue wave” could move the race to toss-up status.
Following Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s resignation to become Ambassador to China, Kim Reynolds was appointed to fill the remainder of his term and is running for a full term. While Reynolds is favored, strong Democratic performances in several special elections in Iowa are a cause for concern.
Unpopular Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas is term-limited, leaving Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach to fight to keep the state in Republican hands.
Nearby, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts should have no problem winning re-election. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is term-limited, leaving presumptive front runner Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb likely to keep the seat in Republican hands.
Additional open seats in South Dakota and Wyoming should prove likely holds as well.
Idaho’s longtime Governor Butch Otter has declined to run for a fourth term, leaving front runners Representative Raul Labrador and Lieutenant Governor Brad Little to fight for the Republican nomination- the real contest in deep-red Idaho.
While Arizona has traditionally been a reliably red state, shifting demographics are causing it to trend purple. The state’s open Senate seat, as well as a few House seats, should cause Governor Doug Ducey some concern – though the advantage still belongs to Ducey.
Likely/Solid Democratic Seats
Under California’s top-two system of voting, it is all but certain the general election will feature two Democrats – namely Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – vying to replace term-limited Governor Jerry Brown.
The lack of a Republican running statewide could have negative consequences for Republicans looking to hold on to key Congressional districts in Orange County.
Though Republicans see Oregon as a slim, but possible, pickup opportunity, Governor Kate Brown is all but certain to be elected to a full term.
Across the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii Governor David Ige is poised for re-election, provided he survives a primary challenge from Representative Colleen Hanabusa.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will cruise to re-election amid a poor Republican field, which could have negative repercussions for Republicans running in incredibly competitive House districts.